Mother of Japanese hostage pleads for son's life as deadline nears

Mother of Japanese hostage pleads for son's life as deadline nears
Junko Ishido, mother of Kenji Goto, a Japanese hostage held by Islamic State militants, appears at a Tokyo news conference to appeal to Japan's prime minister to intervene on her son's behalf. (Shizuo Kambayashi / Associated Press)

The mother of a Japanese hostage believed to be in the hands of Islamic extremists made an emotional appeal for her son's life Wednesday, hours before a deadline set by his captors was to expire.

In a statement read to reporters, Junko Ishido, the mother of captured journalist Kenji Goto, pleaded with the Japanese government to "please save Kenji," the Associated Press reported.


Ishido begged Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to work with the Jordanian government to save her son's life, adding, "Kenji has only a little time left," the AP reported.

The renewed ultimatum, issued by extremists believed to be holding Goto and a Jordanian air force pilot, Lt. Moaz Kasasbeh, is set to expire late Wednesday in Japan.

Both men are believed to be in the hands of Islamic State militants, who control large swaths of Syria and Iraq.

A video released Tuesday purports to show Goto, a freelance journalist, saying he and Kasasbeh would be killed within 24 hours if Jordanian authorities did not release a jailed female bomber.

Abe on Wednesday denounced the deadline.

"This was an extremely despicable act, and we feel strong indignation. We strongly condemn that," the prime minister said, according to the Associated Press. "While this is a tough situation, we remain unchanged in our stance of seeking help from the Jordanian government in securing the early release of Mr. Goto."

In Amman, Jordan's capital, about 200 family members of the pilot demonstrated outside the prime minister's office, the AP reported. "All people must know, from the head of the regime to everybody else, that the safety of Moaz means the stability of Jordan, and the death of Moaz means chaos in Jordan," Safi Kasasbeh, the pilot's father, told the AP.

The 1 minute, 50 second video released Tuesday features a photograph of Goto, and a voice attributed to him speaking in English, according to the SITE organization, which monitors militant Web activity. The video's contents could not be immediately verified.

"Any more delays by the Jordanian government will mean they're responsible for the death of their pilot, which will then be followed by mine," the voice says, according to a transcript released by SITE. "I only have 24 hours left to live, and the pilot has even less."

The speaker addresses his comments to Goto's wife, Rinko, the Japanese government and "the people of Japan." The Japanese government has vowed to do what it can to win Goto's release.

In the photo, Goto holds an image that appears to show Kasasbeh, who was captured in December when his fighter plane crashed in northern Syria.

The photo appears to be the first released publicly since an initial flurry of images when Kasasbeh was first captured. The pilot, previously clean-shaven, now appears with a beard. Jordan is part of the U.S.-led coalition that has been bombing Islamic State targets in Syria since September.

In a previous video, the man identified as Goto said the Islamic State was demanding that Jordanian authorities release Sajida Rishawi, an Iraqi national who was a failed suicide bomber in 2005 attacks on hotels in Amman that left dozens of civilians dead. She survived when her explosives belt did not detonate, Jordanian authorities said.

The earlier video also said Islamic State had already beheaded another Japanese hostage, Haruna Yukawa. Islamic State had originally demanded $200 million for release of the two Japanese citizens, but later appeared to drop the demand for cash and instead sought the release of the jailed militant.


McDonnell is a Times staff writer. Bulos is a special correspondent. Times staff writer Christine Mai-Duc in Los Angeles contributed to this report.

Follow @mcdneville on Twitter for news out of the Middle East.